Today, the spicy aroma of dahl and curries punctuate the air. I have spent nearly seven years of holidays with their friendly presence, and after many months away, they in particular, remind me that we are "home for the holiday." Outside is brisk, cold breezes dance with our cheeks and noses. The bite is refreshing as we rush from door to car, car to door. I had almost forgotten what "cold" was, in my new warmer climate. English bobs into Tamil and back again, the fan over the stove whirs, cabinets are open and shut, children exclaim and the National Cathedral Choir sings over the television.
Yesterday, my parents signed stacks of papers, and sold my childhood home in Fulton. Over the summer, they moved West, ten hours closer to our Memphian habitat. Mom, Dad and siblings three now live in West Tennessee, while the oldest four of us are scattered between Texas and Maryland. My heart feels glad and at peace with where we all call "home," but I admit, I shed a tear or two and sighed a nostalgic sigh at (pardon the dramatics) The Passing of an Era.
So many Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas mornings were spent as a family in our sprawling rancher. Dad would always have a popping fire burning in the woodstove, Mom would have a candle and oil lamps lit with some festive CD playing in the background. Someone would inevitably be cranky and bickering would momentarily ensue, before general cheer and anticipation was restored. It was "just" us. Seven children spanning 13 years, Mom and Dad, Donna and the cats. A twinkling tree for Christmas, and Granny and Poppa and Dave, Vallie and Sophia on Thanksgiving. It always felt full and busy, and it was home.
Then Ryan waltzed into my heart and life, and our family holidays combined. Thanksgiving would begin at his parents in the fresh morning while family trickled in bearing loads of food. The cousins' little ones would tear through the house screaming happily, usually chased by a growling Unkie Ryan, aunties and uncles would chatter amicably, food was eaten at leisure in every room and enjoyed by all. For dinner, we would drive back to Fulton for traditional turkey fare, with my family. We would all smoosh around one table and eat till only Mom and Ryan were left sitting, usually chatting over their plates till dessert was clamored for. Christmas was much the same, but we would begin with breakfast in my parent's toasty dining room, devotions, advent candle and gifts by the tree and woodstove, before heading to his aunts for lunch and dinner. We got married and added a grandchild to the mix, holiday affairs got spread to other days occasionally, we bustled back and forth, from table to table.
With our exodus to Memphis, holidays look different, so far spending only Christmas in Maryland last year, and only Thanksgiving this year. Home is Memphis, but "going home" has still been flying back to Maryland, and Fulton. I only moved once as a child, and Fulton is where I grew up. My family has felt farther and farther away as we have all grown and spread, but at last, the Fulton chapter has closed, and their Jellico, Tennesse chapter has begun in earnest. I think that this year, for the first time, I am sensing a shift in my heart towards "home." For a long time, home meant Fulton to me, and as Fulton emptied and as the For Sale sign was posted, I felt such a sense of loss. As distance grew between the traditional "just us" Spinolos in Fulton, and as our little Abel family grew, and we moved west, I am finding that "going home" truly means going "where the heart is." Looking back at the holidays I have spent with Ryan's family, I realize that they were spent in various homes, with different configurations of family and foods, but that I only really remember them all as being at "home." I know it sounds strange to only just now be realizing it, but home is where my family is.
Home is with my Abels, Mom and Dad and Tanya, and family is cousins, babies, aunties and uncles. Home is colors and spices and accents and happy commotion. The location of our gatherings and the number of our attendees changes from year to year, but Home is with my Abels, wherever they may be.
And now, Home is where my Spinolos are, in Tennessee. There are entirely new traditions to create, a new house to fill with memories, and even new family to discover and embrace. I can't wait to watch as we establish new migration patterns, now encompassing the opposite corner of Tennessee.
We have gone home for the holidays, and are in an entirely different house, but are still just as at home as ever. I miss my Spinolo family, but I am excited as they start this new journey and I eagerly await the time when we get to visit!